Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Tea Review - L'Oriental Tea Blend

The Midwest Tea Festival in Kansas City, Missouri was more than just a day of sampling teas. It was very much a chance to meet tea lovers from all over the world and to learn more about the Tea Industry. Such was the case with Emilie of Emilie's French Teas - French tea is more than just sipping tea from a cup. French Tea is ART! Thankfully, Emilie's French Teas had several tea blends to sample at the Festival. As soon as I tried L'Oriental tea, I knew a bag of it was coming home with me! Emilie and I even had a small conversation in French while I continued to try her teas.

When you open a bag of L'Oriental tea, you are immediately jettisoned away to a field filled with lavender, roses, and other flowers, each one giving off their scent that leads to a dizzying high. The tea is a delightful blend of sencha tea leaves with rich colour, passion fruit, flower petals, with peach and strawberry flavours. The tea, light golden in colour, tastes of sitting in a cafe after visiting an art museum - exquisite, delicate, creative, and delicious! The tea liquor has a faint scent of green tea and flowers without being overpowering to your palette. A great tea to enjoy on a lazy Sunday with a good book or while watching a foreign film.

Highly recommended!

Merci beaucoup, Emilie!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Tea Review - Mad Hatter's Concoction

I had the pleasure of meeting the guys behind The Dragon's Treasure at the Midwest Tea Festival several weeks ago. The trio were funny and full of energy - perfect as Tea Merchants! Their concept is to create a haven for people who love tea and anime . . . . and it works! They had many blends to choose from in the way of sampling, yet with me being a fan of anything Alice in Wonderland, I had to purchase a bag of the Mad Hatter's Concoction!

The tea is a blend of green tea, orange peels, sunflower petals, and citrus flavours. When I opened the bag, the smell was intoxicating - reminded me of a Spring day in a valley filled with lemon and orange trees while a breeze gently blew through. Yes, all of that in one bag of tea! The leaves appeared to be full and vibrant, not just pieces of the leaves. Getting a closeup look at your loose leaf tea is a good indicator as to whether or not you will have a decent cup.

The appearance of the tea once made still reminded me of a Spring day - golden and rich. The smell was of fresh and grassy with just a hint of citrus. My first sip was pleasing to my mouth and light - all of the ingredients blended rather well without one overpowering the others.  Mad Hatter's Concoction is a good tea to begin your day or end it, preferably with a book or with friends.

Much thanks to the people at The Dragon's Treasure!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Circus of Dreams and Nightmares

A friend told me about a strange book titled The Night Circus by author Erin Morgenstern and I knew that I had to read it. Thankfully, I located a copy several weeks later at Prospero's Books in Kansas City and started reading it the next day. Yeah, this was one of those books that I completely devoured within days. If you are looking for books that are a healthy dose of magick realism mixed with alternate history, The Night Circus is for you!

Two men who are more than mere magicians have been a part of a game than has lasted longer than both men will admit. In order to play the game, they must "train" someone who will "fight" for their side, all in the name of magick. One of them named Prospero the Enchanter chooses his daughter, Celia, while the other named Alexander or "the man in the grey suit" chooses an orphan named Marco. For years, these two children undergo strenuous training with regards to learning true magick, reading many books, and keeping a low profile from the rest of the world. Moving forward several years, a wealthy eccentric named Chandresh Christophe Lefevre decides to create a new kind of circus, one that is beyond clowns and balloons. Le Cirque des Reves (the circus of dreams), created by Lefevre and a small group of his closest friends, is the circus for those who seek something different in the ways of entertainment. The circus is draped in black and white, opening at night and closing at dawn and they appear in cities by the blink of an eye. By random chance, Celia and Marco, now older and wiser in the ways of magick and illusions, become a part of the circus and soon, the circus becomes something more. Something darker and stranger. Since the book is written in present tense, the reader feels as though the book is happening right before their eyes.

Like I said before, I devoured this book within several days. This was an excellent read that gave me just enough to make me wonder and hope for a circus like this to suddenly appear. In fact, once I finished the book, I emailed my friend and suggested that we both wear red scarves (when you read the book, you'll know why). Kudos to Morgenstern for writing such a delightful book. I can't recommend The Night Circus enough.


Sunday, September 3, 2017

The Soul of Publishing a Poet

I have been a part of the publishing world for several years and I still feel as though I have no idea what I'm doing. Yet, the indie and smaller presses seem to make it a bit easier for authors as well as the publishers themselves when it comes to the daily grind of what to expect after hearing the words, "We'd like to publish you." However, there are those who still dream of getting published by New York - years ago, if you weren't published by a company in New York, well. . . . .

Sometimes, it's hard to explain to an "outsider" just what goes on in a publishing house. Muse, the debut novel by Jonathan Galassi, gives the reader an inside look into the New York giants. Galassi is an established poet as well as the President of Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, one of the major New York publishing houses still around. Muse delves into the world of New York publishing as well as the fate and future of poets. The book begins with a history of America's greatest poet, Ida Perkins. Truth be told, once I was drawn into this novel, I found myself searching for her work . . . only to find that she is fictional. Yet, once you begin reading Muse, you'll wish she was real.

The book tells the story of Paul Dukach, a misunderstood young man from a small town. While his family enjoys all things sports, he enjoys the delight and comfort of books. He especially enjoys the work of Ida Perkins, a poet whose works ignite his soul as well as many others. Soon, Paul finds himself working for the publishing house Purcell & Stern, learning the ins and outs of the company as well as the trade secrets (and gossip). However, as Fate would have it, he gets a chance to meet the source of his soul - Ida Perkins, now much older yet no less feisty. Through this once in a lifetime meeting, Paul discovers a secret that could turn the publishing world on its feet yet point it in a new direction few would ever venture to guess.

Galassi's words drew me in from the beginning and I never looked up until the very end. He writes like an earlier Woody Allen film - filled with black wit, charm, sophistication, and dirty, dirty secrets held lovingly by eccentrics and society's darlings. Muse was a delight to read and savour, as well as a fresh addition to the literary world. I will read anything if the story grabs me and Muse did just that. Thankfully, I found a copy of the book at a used bookstore. I wondered about the person who had it before me - did they love it? Did they feel a sense of connection with Paul as he dug further and further into his world of books? Or, did they read it, say "that's nice", and then quickly dispose of it? As much as I loved this book, I will be passing it on to people in whom I know will be able to appreciate its charm. I hope this book will continue to make its rounds to people who read it and take something away from it. Muse is about finding a place in the world when you think there is none for you, and of how words still have the power to seduce, enrage, and soothe.

Thank you, Mr. Galassi and EX LIBRIS!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Shadow of the Greyfriar

I first met Clay and Susan Griffith at DragonCon several years ago. They were, and still are, some of the nicest people I've ever met. I picked up a copy of Vampire Empire: The Greyfriar, published through PYR Books, and later devoured it that night, only to return to their table the next day to purchase the second book in the trilogy. I devoured that one as well yet waited several years to purchase the third book. When I finally made that purchase, I decided to return to their Vampire world and found myself loving the story all over again.

It is the year 2020 and vampires rule most of the major cities in the northern part of the world, while the majority of humans are either bred as food for the vampires, or they live in the Southern cities as vampires don't truly care for warmer climates. Princess Adele, heir to the Empire Equatoria, is also quite a wielder with weapons against vampires. However, when her airship is caught unawares by a vampire attack, she is soon rescued by the enigmatic and dashing Greyfriar, the hero of Humankind and the scourge of vampires! As the Greyfriar continues to protect Adele from the vampires, her Intended, a brash and uncouth man, promises to tear Heaven and Hell apart to find her . . . . and start a war with the vampires to further his glory and fame. However, Adele has another "friend" - Prince Gareth, a kindhearted vampire who rules in Scotland and the elder son of King Dimitri in England. Unlike the other vampires and his younger and bloodthirsty brother Cesare, Gareth wishes to understand humans in a better way. He sees Adele as a way to understand them better while Adele sees him as something else.

This book is an excellent mixture of alternative history, vampires, romance, and action! I'm glad that I'm reading it again, because it feels even better the second time around. Adele is not your typical "woman who swoons at everything" - she holds her own, can kick many a vampire's ass, yet knows how to be reasonable and even forgiving when it comes to Gareth. Although Gareth is a "kind" vampire to his human subjects, he is still a VAMPIRE. He will kill and drink blood because that is his nature. Yet, when he attempted to learn how to write like a human . . . . yeah, my heart just melted. BIG crush on Gareth - I had forgotten how much I truly liked him.

I know that there is a new book involving Adele and Gareth - it will soon be purchased by me because I love their relationship. They learn from each other and yet are clearly their own person/vampire. The love they have for each other will never die.

Thank you, Clay and Susan - I hope I will see you two soon!


The Lifestyle of Tea!

Several years ago, I attended a Japanese tea ceremony in Phoenix, Arizona. Although the ceremony lasted only fifteen minutes, something inside of me changed. I wanted to learn more about tea, known as the Elixir of Life. I experimented with different kinds of green tea, followed by white tea, and black tea, until soon I opened my own tea blend company as well as began studying towards my certification as a Tea Professional. Thanks to the World Tea Academy, I began to see tea in a different and more complex way. Through my journey in tea, I collected books regarding tea and its history. However, I had no idea that I had a copy of the book Tea Here Now by Donna Fellman and Lhasha Tizer - Donna Fellman is currently my sensei at the World Tea Academy!

Tea Here Now is a great introduction into incorporating tea into your life. Beginning with an introduction by Tea Master James Norwood Pratt, this book was a delightful read. From learning about the history of tea, to understanding the Way of Tea or Chado, to creating your own tea ceremony to share with friends and loved ones, Tea Here Now is an amazing book that you will enjoy repeatedly. When I began reading this book, I knew that I wanted to pause and reflect - I decided to read a chapter every day and to quietly reflect on it with a cup of tea. Each chapter was a trip to a secluded place, hidden among a grove of trees and a pot of oolong tea waiting for me. Fellman and Tizer tell of their experiences with tea and how it has changed their lives. Soon, you will want to change your life as well with tea.

Next week, I'll be traveling to Kansas City, Missouri to attend the Midwest Tea Festival! If you're going to attend, be sure to find me and maybe we can have a cup!

Within three weeks, I'll be hosting my first tea education workshop - a full hour of meditation, reflection, and learning more about tea as well as Chado. I hope to make my sensei proud.

Brew up a cup of Taiwanese oolong (one of my favourite teas), get a copy of Tea Here Now, and relax and rejuvenate with a Tea Lifestyle!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Chosen One of the Toshigawa!

As I stated recently, I love delving into new comic book worlds. Although I am BIG fan of Moon Knight, I also love anything that has good illustration, well written story, and characters that I care about. Thanks to Martheus Wade and MAW Productions, Jetta: Tales of the Toshigawa has been added to my Comic Book List.

The story is thus: Shianndrea Toshigawa is the Chosen One, the only one able to stop the evil plans of the KNAVE as they try to take over the world. As the Toshigawa clan has ruled Japan for many years, one of it's members turned evil and became the leader of the KNAVE. He plans to destroy the Toshigawa clan as well as his daughter, Shianndrea! Yet, she is more than an able fighter and proves that she has powers and skills far beyond that of any mortal person.

In Crucible, we get to see Shianndrea in the time before she truly takes the title of the Chosen One, as she does battle with Taki Soto, the most feared female warrior in Japan and her former trainer. Does Shianndrea have what it takes to become the Chosen One? Read Crucible and find out!

As much as people enjoy the comics from DC and Marvel, there are plenty of other comics out there that are just as good - Jetta: Tales of the Toshigawa is one of them. Filled with blazing action, this comic is an excellent step into the Toshigawa world. I look forward to reading more of Jetta!


Athens for the Intellectual

When I read a recent interview of author Rachel Cusk in The New Yorker, I grinned. It had been quite some time since I last read her works and now, thanks to the article, I would return to her world of words. Outline, the first book of a trilogy, was a nice refresher. The story is thus: a female writer travels to Athens, Greece to teach a writing class. Along the way, she engages in conversations with elderly bachelors, other writers, lesbians who dreams strange dreams, and others. We join the writer on her adventures through the ancient city as we are also exposed to her life and background as well.

We begin the story with the narrator on a flight to Athens as she begins her travels through conversations with an elderly man. After their initial getting to know each other, the man continues to be a part of the narrator's life as she lives and works in Athens. From there, it seems that the narrator doesn't really live but rather floats from one conversation to another during the extremely hot summer. Each person she speaks with adds a little more to her life as well as breathing more life into the city. Even her students taking her course have stories to tell, even when one thinks of her as being a poor teacher.

Cusk is, in my opinion, reminds me of Ian McEwan or A. S. Byatt - British authors who seemingly write for those who enjoy their intellect to be stimulated. I adore Cusk's writing in that it is sparse yet lyrical. She makes you feel what the others are feeling with little intent or without overly flowery phrases. I will admit, however, that although the book is only a little over 200 pages, this book must be read slowly. You can't treat Cusk's books like a "quick read at the beach". You must sample her words carefully, like enjoying a five course meal with wine. Yet, in that slow style of reading, the book is worth it. I look forward to reading Transit very soon but in the meantime, I finally have a copy of her work Saving Agnes.


Friday, August 18, 2017

It's . . . . HELVIS!

I first met filmmaker and too cool dude Mike McCarthy while purchasing a copy of his film, Cigarette Girl (awesome dystopian film - must see!) but we really didn't converse until a while later. Mike McCarthy is very much a staple of Memphis - his house is a lovely shrine to the city, Elvis, and anything that was cool before "cool" was cool. When I learned that he would host a signing for HELVIS, his latest work, I knew I had to have it. HELVIS is a wild ride through the Underground with our "hero" Helvis as he meets comic censors of the past, comic book guru William M. Gaines, Grim Reapers who really DIGG it, almost dead demonic lovers, and . . . the Green Bay Packers?! Combined with crazy illustrations and satirical writing that pokes fun at those within and on the outside of fringe, HELVIS is for those who get their kicks outside of the norm!

The only question I have for McCarthy is this - when will the next installment come out? I read the book twice and am ready for more! Much thanks to 901 Comics for hosting the signing (go check them out - cool selection and one of the owners does an excellent cosplay of Moon Knight!) and thanks again to McCarthy in continuing to be an artist who does his own thing, Memphis style!

Before I forget - great usage of the Zippin Pippin! For those of you who don't know, the Zippin Pippin was a wooden roller coaster from our now gone amusement park, Libertyland. The Pippin was a simple roller coaster yet it provided much entertainment for the citizens of Memphis and beyond. Elvis used to open the park late at night or shut it down so that he could enjoy the ride without dealing with the crowds and screaming fans.

Yep, what a cool ride . . . . in the UNDERGROUND!


Friday, August 11, 2017

Flash Story - Easy Chinese

Monica decided that the fast food-esque Chinese place would suffice for her sudden craving of crab wontons and noodles. An Asian man turned hipster stood before her in line as he complained to the young person behind the order booth that he had been charged for rice. As the young employee explained the additional charge in a rapid tone, the customer said in the air fitting for the Haves, "I eat here everyday, so I know about the rice." Monica wanted to asked him if his life as home was that dreary that he had to come here to eat every day, only to stop herself from creating even more embarrassment. She soon placed her order then found herself seated at one of the tables by the windows. She pulled out her latest read written by a female British author who seemed to be out of touch with the world and dove in, only to stop when her food arrived. Monica dug in as her hunger took over and had to admit to herself that the food truly wasn't that bad. She tore into her crab wontons while Coldplay played through the speaker system, calming everyone down just enough so they could enjoy their lettuce wraps that much better. Her Asian salad met with the same fate as her wontons while her book lay near her arm, momentarily forgotten. Several minutes and two empty plates later, Monica resumed her reading as her quite tasty and hip Chinese food settled in her stomach, dissolving her latest panic attack that led her to the restaurant in the first place.